When I ran in 2016, I promised my constituents to be a strong voice of support or opposition on a variety of issues. Through the 2016 campaign, I worked hard to uphold these guarantees to the voters. The following are several of the issues that I advocated for and/or will continue working for on behalf of the residents of the 21st District and the state of Kansas.
For constituents who are still unfamiliar with my position on key issues -- I know it is unusual for a politician to provide direct, comprehensive and detailed answers to questions, free of political misdirection, but, when you vote for me I want it to be an informed vote that you can support as together we address these critical issues.
IS THE STATE OF KANSAS IS FUNDING PUBLIC EDUCATION ADEQUATELY? NO
Kansas is definitely NOT funding public education adequately or equitably. The conservative Republican leadership in 2017-2018 has failed to support our public schools by offering funding amounts which, according to the Kansas Supreme Court, do not meet the adequacy standards set forth in the Kansas Constitution. I consistently voted for bills that would have provided funding adequate to meet the constitutional requirements of the Kansas Supreme Court. The Republicans insistence on underfunding our schools, if left unchecked, will detrimentally affect the futures of our children, the values of our homes, and the economy of our state. Investing in public schools and teachers is not only the right thing to do for our children, it is the best thing we can do to protect the economic future of Kansas. Modern businesses, heavily invested in intellectual capital, will not locate in areas with sub-standard public schools, and undervalued and underfunded colleges and universities. Johnson County is a prime example of an area whose prosperity is based in large part on the quality and reputation of its public schools. Kansas will continue to suffer economically, especially in the long term, until it reinstates the funding necessary to maintain a superior, statewide system of public schools.
SHOULD THE LEGISLATURE BE ALLOWED TO TAKE OR WITHHOLD MONEY FROM KPERS THAT IS EARMARKED FOR TEACHER AND PUBLIC EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT PAYMENTS? NO
A strong, fully funded and sacrosanct retirement system is critically important in helping to attract and retain quality teachers for our public schools. I have and will continue to oppose any changes to the basic structure of KPERS, to oppose any reduction in benefits for current or future KPERS retirees and to oppose underfunding and “borrowing” from the KPERS funds to cover general fund shortfalls. I have and will continue to support an appropriate cost of living adjustment for current retirees on a yearly basis, to support legislation making it illegal to use or “borrow” KPERS funds for any purpose other than teacher and public employee retirement payments and I have and will continue to support legislation making it illegal to withhold state contributions owed to KPERS.
DO YOU SUPPORT LEAVING THE SUPERVISION OF OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM UNDER THE JURISDICTION OF THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION? YES
The citizens of Kansas elected the State Board of Education to oversee and supervise our system of public education in Kansas. I support keeping the State Board of Education as the chief educational oversight organization in Kansas, and support keeping the selection of its members in the hands of the Kansas electorate. I have and will continue to oppose any attempts by the ultra-conservative Republican leadership in the House to weaken and redirect the responsibilities of the State Board of Education. Any such plan is misguided and harmful to our educational institutions. I will continue to fight any attempt to further politicize the Board or to lessen its present duties and responsibilities.
DO YOU SUPPORT SPENDING PUBLIC TAX DOLLARS TO PROVIDE VOUCHERS, SCHOLARSHIPS, OR TAX CREDITS FOR KANSAS STUDENTS IN NON-PUBLIC (PRIVATE, RELIGIOUS, OR HOME) K-12 SCHOOLS? NO
I have and will continue to strongly oppose voucher plans, tuition tax credits, "scholarships" and ANY other legislative effort to divert public tax money from our public schools in order to fund private schools, religious schools, or home schools.
Many of our fine religious and private schools provide a quality education for their students, but, taxpayer money is intended to fund public education which is available to all children regardless of religious affiliation, political affiliation, sexual orientation, physical requirements, intellectual challenges, economic situation or other special interests. Our public tax revenues are meant to support public education and must be used solely and without exception for that purpose.
DO YOU SUPPORT RESTORING DUE PROCESS RIGHTS TO K-12 TEACHERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS? YES
Due process should be the right of every American worker, regardless of profession. I have and will continue to strongly advocate for reinstating due process provisions stripped away by Governor Brownback and the conservative Republican Legislature in a reprehensible legislative maneuver in the waning minutes of the 2014 legislative session.
Without due process, teacher assessments can be unfair, biased, or discriminatory, based upon the personal, social, religious or political views of those doing the evaluating. Due process does NOT protect bad teachers, it protects good teachers from administrators or school boards who may wish to unfairly terminate a teacher for issues unrelated to the teacher's professional performance. Due process provides these safeguards and does so in a manner that saves school districts money rather than having to spend large amounts of money litigating these matters.
I introduced legislation in both 2017 and 2018 that would have restored due process rights to our teachers. Both times the bill passed the House but only by adding it as an amendment to another bill. It then went on to be killed in the ultra-conservative Republican Senate. During the 2019-2020 Session I again introduced the bill but this time the Republican leadership made sure the bill did not even get a hearing in the Education Committee even though I had gotten the majority of the committee members, both Republicans and Democrats to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. That kind of issue suppression is typical of the Republican leadership in Topeka and is truly a corruption of the political proces. If elected again, I will again introduce this legislation in hopes we have some major changes in the 2021-202 Session.
DO YOU SUPPORT HUMAN SEXUALITY EDUCATION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS? YES
I have and will continue to support a comprehensive, age-appropriate, medically accurate, human sexuality curriculum in our public schools. I believe such a curriculum is essential in keeping our students healthy and sexually responsible. Keeping these programs strong, widespread and properly funded is the responsible and realistic thing to do.
DO YOU BELIEVE THAT THE KANSAS SUPREME COURT HAS THE RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE THAT THE STATE IS MEETING ITS CONSTITUTIONAL OBLIGATION TO ADEQUATELY FUND SCHOOLS?YES
The Kansas Supreme Court most certainly has the constitutional responsibility to review the actions and decisions of the Legislature to determine if they fall within the scope of the Kansas Constitution.
As a member of the Kansas House of Representatives, I have and will continue to support legislation designed to adequately and fairly fund our public schools, colleges and universities and to support the Constitutional independence of the Kansas Supreme Court to review all legislation including the legislature’s obligation to both adequately and equitably fund our public schools. I will fight any effort by the Legislative or Executive branch to exceed their Constitutional limits or to impede in any way the duties and responsibilities of the Court. I have and will continue to support every effort to see that the Court is fully funded and staffed in order to continue to fulfill its Constitutional duties.
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
DO YOU SUPPORT FULL STATE FUNDING TO SUPPORT OUR COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES INSTEAD OF CONSTANTLY RAISING THE COST OF TUITION? NO
I have and will continue to support full funding for our Kansas colleges, community colleges and universities. Ever rising tuition costs is becoming a true barrier for a lot of Kansas students who no longer see higher education as affordable.
Kansans realize that 21st century companies rarely locate in states that do not produce a well-educated work force. Kansas must explore every possible avenue for reversing spiraling tuition costs, and for making post-secondary education financially possible for every student who seeks a college education. We must also support opportunities for students to attend technical schools which provide alternative educational opportunities leading to high-paying jobs in the building trades and other industries.
Investing in our community colleges, colleges and universities is not only the right thing to do for our students; it is the economically smart thing to do for the future of Kansas. I have and will continue to work with stakeholders in private industry, teacher organizations, the leaders of our colleges, universities, and other pro-public educational institutions to create consensus-based legislation designed to keep our public schools great and our community colleges, colleges and universities world class.
DO YOU SUPPORT IN-STATE TUITION FOR CHILDREN OF UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS WHO GRADUATE FROM A KANSAS HIGH SCHOOL AND ARE TAKING STEPS TO OBTAIN U.S. CITIZENSHIP? YES
I have and will continue to support legislation that allows the children of undocumented immigrants who have graduated from a Kansas high school and are taking stops to obtain U.S. citizenship in state tuition at our colleges and universities.
ANY young person who has fulfilled the requirements necessary to graduate from a Kansas high school and who wants to pursue a college education should be applauded and supported in their efforts to achieve that goal. We should do everything in our power to see that as many of our young people as possible have access to the education they need to become good citizens and productive members of our economy. We should not only support in-state tuition for children on the path to citizenship, we should provide all students with appropriate tuition assistance, internships, work opportunities and post-graduate tuition forgiveness for those students entering critical occupations. We need to support all programs that help our young people become part of a well-trained, well informed, productive citizenry.
DO YOU THINK THE KANSAS TAX STRUCTURE IS WELL BALANCED AND THAT ALL SECTORS OF THE ECONOMY ARE TREATED FAIRLY? NO
I was very involved in helping to repeal Sam Brownback’s 2012 failed “tax experiment” that allowed unfair, disastrous and irresponsible income tax exemptions for over 300,000 businesses and our very wealthiest individuals. I voted for the repeal and I voted to override Governor Brownback’s veto of that repeal.
I voted for and will continue to support a new tax structure that is broad based, that includes ALL segments of the economy, and that eliminates political and financial favoritism for the wealthy elite and special interests that benefitted most from the Brownback tax plan. Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts were implemented at the expense of the middle class, our students, and our most vulnerable citizens. Brownback’s irresponsible tax cut “experiment” resulted in an unprecedented economic downturn in Kansas. The Republican Brownback leftovers in the Legislature would like to return to his disastrous tax policies which would again disadvantage the vast majority of working Kansans.
Savvy business people and the great majority of Kansans in general understand that a fair and balanced tax structure is a critical necessity for strong economic development which will help bring modern businesses and high paying jobs to Kansas. As a member of the House Taxation Committee I have and will continue to support a balanced tax plan that will provide a more equitable income tax schedule while decreasing overly used and regressive sales and property taxes that are hurting many Kansas families and businesses.
DO YOU SUPPORT A REDUCTION IN THE PRESENT STATE SALES TAX ON FOOD WHICH IS ONE OF THE HIGHEST IN THE NATION? YES
The present sales tax in Kansas on food and other products and services is one of the highest in the nation. It is a regressive tax that places an unfair burden on the middle class and on citizens least able to afford basic necessities for their families. The present sales tax rates should be cut as part of an ongoing effort to revamp the tax code to provide a more equitable system of taxation that spreads tax responsibility over the entire Kansas economy, that encourages true economic development, that provides the funding necessary to address the basic responsibilities of Kansas government and reduces the burden of regressive taxes like the sales tax on food.
I am in favor of a tax structure that eliminates the sales tax on both food and medicine. Kansans should not have to deny their families proper nutrition or needed medications based on their inability to afford an inordinately high tax on food and medicine.
SSHOULD THE LEGISLATURE BE ALLOWED TO TAKE MONEY FROM KDOT FUNDS WHICH ARE EARMARKED FOR ROAD AND BRIDGE REPAIR? NO
The previous Republican administration constantly took money out of the highway funds to cover up for general fund losses created by the Brownback “tax experiment”. I have been a strong advocate for fully funding KDOT and to keep those funds from being “swept” into the general fund to cover shortfalls caused by fiscal mismanagement of the General Fund.
KDOT funds go to keeping all Kansans and their families safe on our roads and bridges. Fully funding KDOT also generates thousands of good paying, highly skilled jobs which help stimulate and sustain our economy. Using those funds to cover fiscal mismanagement of the general fund puts the safety of Kansans at risk as well as undermining our efforts to re-energize and sustain a thriving economy.
SHOULD THE LEGISLATURE PASS A BILL ALLOWING BUSINESSES TO DISCRIMINATE ON THE BASIS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY? NO
I have and will continue to adamantly oppose any form of legislation that promotes or allows any form of discrimination based on race, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity. To do any differently is unacceptable, un-American and should be plainly and without exception illegal.
DO YOU SUPPORT ACCEPTING FEDERAL DOLLARS FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION IN KANSAS? YES
I have been a consistent advocate and vote for expanding Medicaid in Kansas. To our credit, through the efforts of all Democrats and a group of Republican moderates, we have passed Medicaid out of the House three times in the last four years, all over the objection of the ultra-conservative Republican House leadership. Those three bills were sent to the even more conservative Republican Senate where they did not receive enough votes to pass. To NOT pass Medicaid expansion in this time of an unprecedented pandemic is heartless, politically motivated and economically devastating.
Accepting federal dollars for Medicaid expansion should be a top priority for the next Legislature. Not accepting such federal help, which has been in part paid for by Kansas taxpayers, has cost the state over almost four BILLION dollars in much needed revenue, denied adequate health care to thousands of Kansans, and put tremendous and unnecessary strain on our entire health care system. Lack of Medicaid expansion has put some Kansas hospitals out of business, and now threatens to eliminate over two dozen others. This, in turn, has put the lives and well-being of many Kansans at risk. It has also put at risk the economic future and the very existence of a number of small towns across the state.
KANSAS HAS THE MOST RESTRICTIVE ABORTION LAWS IN THE COUNTRY. AS A LEGISLATOR, WOULD YOU SUPPORT REDUCING THESE RESTRICTIONS? YES
The following is my position on abortion and a woman’s right to choose. It is the text from a guest column I wrote earlier this year for the Kansas City Star:
As a member of the Kansas House of Representatives I can honestly say that I believe there is not a single member of the House that would not like to find ways to lower the number of abortions in Kansas. That being said I voted NO on the Constitutional Amendment on abortion that came before the House last Friday.
I voted against the Amendment because I believe it falsely promised a simplistic answer to a very complicated problem. It offered a “Just say No” approach to the abortion issue which has been tried before and was a dismal and sometimes fatal approach for both mother and fetus.
This was a politically motivated amendment aimed at furthering the political careers of some in leadership positions in the House and Senate. This amendment, would have continued to deeply divide us as legislators and Kansans. The Amendment was poorly written and the conservatives were insisting it be placed on the August ballot knowing that August elections draw the least interest and the fewest voters.
Over 140,000 Kansas women have no access to family planning services including birth control. If the conservatives were seriously interested in lowering the number of abortions in Kansas, rather than promoting their own self-serving political interests, they would support more easily available and affordable access to contraception as well as more comprehensive sex education. They would also support the funding necessary to place more counselors and more psychologists in our public schools.
If they were really interested in lowering abortions they would support expanding Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would give low income pregnant women, who might not be able to afford another child, the comfort of knowing that she and her child would have access to affordable, quality healthcare if she carried that child to term. They would support the expansion of post-natal medical care; expand the availability of pre-K classes in our public schools and provide better job training opportunities for low income mothers. All of these programs would give low income pregnant women hope that they would be able to care for and financially provide for a child.
I would also like to see the formation of a bipartisan task force of women legislators to work on a practical plan to address lowering the abortion rate in Kansas. Such a bipartisan task force of women legislators was instrumental in creating a plan which helped overturn the Brownback “tax experiment” in 2017. Such a task force could be instrumental in developing a workable plan to address the abortion issue. I doubt that leadership in the House and Senate would support the formation of such a task force so it may be up to individual rank and file women legislators in the House and Senate to establish their own ad hoc task force.
Kansans have a history of being able to solve complicated problems. We have the ability to address the abortion issue through a process of discussion, compromise and cooperation. The “Just say No” Constitutional Amendment is not the answer to this problem and that is why it was rejected by the Kansas House.
The Kansas Legislature should now try to craft an abortion reduction solution that could be a national model. Would this be easy, absolutely not, but as John Kennedy said “We don’t do this because it is easy, we do this because it is hard”. It is time we make a commitment to do the hard work necessary to accomplish a solution that is worthwhile, effective and worthy of national attention. It will be interesting to see if leadership is interested in actually finding a solution or simply promoting politics as usual.
DO YOU SUPPORT THE STATE CONSTITUTION'S NONPARTISAN, MERIT SYSTEM FOR SELECTION OF SUPREME COURT NOMINEES? YES
Fortunately, the voters of Kansas rejected former Governor Brownback’s effort to politicize the Kansas Supreme Court and to remove the judges from the Court who disagreed with his political positions.
I believe the Court has done a good job in representing its branch of our state government. I fully support the continuation of the current merit-based system for selecting Kansas’ Supreme Court nominees which assures political neutrality in our court rooms.
SHOULD VOTER REGISTRATION AND PARTICIPATION BE MADE EASIER IN KANSAS? YES
Participation in our electoral system should be encouraged and voter registration should be based on easily obtainable, reliable documents, such as a valid driver’s license, which should be sufficient proof of residency and eligibility. The present Secretary of State seems to think voting and voter registration should be based on an exclusionary, politically biased and a difficult registration process aimed at keeping the "wrong" kind of voters from participating in our democracy. I have and will continue to fight for the rights of all citizens to have easy and legal access to the voting process and for laws that encourage Kansans to fully participate in our right and responsibility to elect our public officials.
OUR LOCAL GOVERNMENT
SHOULD LOCAL COMMUNITIES HAVE THE RIGHT TO CONTROL THEIR OWN POLICY REGARDING TAXES, GUNS, ETC.? YES
To the greatest extent possible, there should be local control of government. Kansas citizens should be able to direct their local representatives to address the education, social, health and other issues that those citizens are willing to authorize and fund. Local municipalities should be able to deal with local issues without being hampered by legislation enacted at the state level on behalf of tax avoiding, politically motivated, or power-seeking special interest groups.
I have and will continue to vote for legislation that allows as much local control as is constitutional to our local units of government. I have and will support legislation that provides as many resources as possible to assist our local units of government carry out their duties on behalf of the people in the 21st District.
DO YOU SUPPORT COMMON SENSE GUN LAWS AIMED AT REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE IN KANSAS? YES
As a former Naval Weapons Officer and current gun owner I believe the gun laws in Kansas are insufficient to effectively reduce the incidents of gun violence across our state.
I voted to keep guns off our campuses and out of our public hospitals, nursing homes and mental health facilities. We were able to accomplish all of those goals except for “guns on campus”. I will continue to fight to remove guns from our campuses.
The conservative Republicans in Topeka, who are very much in the pocket of the NRA, would like to reduce the concealed carry age to 18, to force guns into the hands of our public school teachers and to make school districts civilly liable if a shooting happens in their district and they have not armed their teachers. They also see no reason to outlaw “bump stocks”, high capacity magazines and silencers. They see no problem with the proliferation of military grade weapons being sold to civilians; weapons which are the favored weapons of mass shooters and a threat to the lives of our law enforcement officers. They are also against gun owners having to register their guns, acquire a license to conceal carry, have a waiting period between purchasing a gun and picking it up as well as requiring a rigorous background check and gun safety training.
Despite the false claims of the NRA, no one is coming for anyone’s guns. With 350,000,000 guns spread across our society that ship has sailed. Even so we CAN have laws in place that will reduce the number of guns in the hands of criminals, make owning a gun safer, reduce the number of gun injuries and deaths in Kansas and keep hunting and target shooting a part of the Kansas economy. I have and will continue to work for such common sense laws.
In 2020 I introduced a bill that would have outlawed high capacity magazines (like the ones the shooter used to fire at Highlands Elementary) in handguns. I also introduced a bill that would have added a 5% excise tax on all sales of guns and ammunition in Kansas with all the tax proceeds from those sales earmarked to upgrading our mental health facilities and programs. The Republican leadership in the House refused to even hear either bill in committee. I did offer the high capacity magazine as an amendment to another bill on the floor of the House but it was ruled “non-germane”.
If reelected I will be offering these bills again and I will continue to look for ways to reduce the incidents of gun violence in Kansas.